Formative Assessment For Math
Formative Assessment For Math
Formative assessments are vital to any classroom. They help students stay aware of learning goals and objectives, and help teachers stay aware of which students need extra support or instruction. Formative Assessments should be easy to administer and do not require formal grading. They are simply meant to measure students’ progress as learning is happening. When used regularly, formative assessments help teachers determine areas of confusion or misconceptions that need addressing before moving on.
Summative assessments, which take place at the end of a learning unit, are designed to evaluate students’ mastery of a concept or skill. Because formative assessments are meant to monitor students’ understanding, there is time to reevaluate and adjust teaching to better reach all students. Therefore, regular formative assessments help to ensure that students perform well on their graded, end-of-unit exams or projects.
According to an article by Benard Chigonga titled Formative Assessment in Mathematics Education in the Twenty-First Century, by using formative assessments, “teachers can target students’ specific problem areas derived from qualitative feedback (rather than scores), adapt instruction, and intervene earlier rather than later.”
Importance of Formative Assessments in Math
Formative assessments are particularly useful in mathematics where skills build on one another throughout the year. If a student is lost trying to understand the fundamentals of fractions, they’ll have a difficult time adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing them.
In math, where there is only one answer, but a multitude of ways to find that answer, formative assessments are critical. They help teachers understand student thinking and see how they process information.
As the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics notes, “Formative strategies embedded in instruction provide opportunities for students to make conjectures, incorporate multiple representations in their problem solving, and discuss their mathematical thinking with their peers.”
Creating regular, meaningful formative assessments in math is one of the best ways to ensure student success and mastery of math. These exercises do not have to be lengthy or complex. They work best when added seamlessly into daily instruction.
Creating Meaningful Formative Assessments in Math
Math students need assurances that they are working out problems correctly, so they don’t veer too far off course. Teachers need to be regularly assessing what students are doing and how they are thinking to adjust their practices to meet their students’ changing needs.
There are several practices teachers can follow to create an environment that fosters a feedback loop between teacher and students. In order to be effective, formative assessments in math must offer feedback in real time, help to personalize learning, and create opportunities for active learning.
Examples of Formative Assessments in Math
Analogy Because so much of math is related (like fact families, decimals and fractions, etc.), asking kids to think about the relationship between concepts is an excellent way to assess their thinking. A simple analogy exercise is perfect for helping students think about these connections. Give them an index card or sheet of paper and write the following. This [concept] is like [blank] because [blank].
Class Work Trade Trading classwork is a quick and easy way to see which students need more instruction. This can be done at any point in a lesson and allows students to take some ownership over their learning. When students have completed several problems or an entire worksheet, have them switch papers with a partner.
Together, the pair of students talk about how they responded to each problem and if they agree on the right answer. Encourage them to not simply look for right and wrong answers but rather discuss how they arrived at certain answers. Circulate the room to help groups who need it.
Homework Help Boards At the beginning of class, ask students to identify problems that were difficult by writing those problem numbers on the board. Students who think they got the right answers write their solutions on the board. If another student had a different approach, they should write their work on the board as well.
Using the solutions on the board, the teacher should facilitate a student discussion about each problem and the proposed solutions. The teacher should use questioning to evaluate what students know and what is still unclear. They should ask questions about why students used certain strategies and if any other strategies could have been used instead.
If several students seem to grasp the concept, the teacher can give them challenge problems to work on independently while providing scaffolding to help students who are still stuck.
Quick End of Class “Quiz” Ungraded, low-stakes quizzes are an excellent way to gauge student understanding. These quizzes can take nearly any form (multiple choice, true/false, open ended) but offer enough insights for teachers to evaluate if students are ready to move on or what skills need further instruction.
It’s important to remind students that these quizzes are not meant to be punitive. They are simply designed to provide information about their progress towards meeting the unit goals.
Self-Assessment Self-assessments help students to take ownership of their learning by asking them to evaluate their understanding of concepts. Self-assessments are usually in written form and can start with a couple of simple prompts like, “what I understand best is…” or “what I need more help with is…”
The idea behind these types of formative assessments is to help students identify their own strengths and weaknesses.
Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light This is a quick formative assessment that will help you group students to better offer more personalized learning. After introducing and working on a particular class and asking students how they are feeling.
If they are completely lost, put them in the red light group. If they are confident they understand and continue with more complex problems, put them in the green light group. If they are somewhere in between (have some understanding but need to move forward slowly), they go in the yellow light group.
You can choose to have the green light group work with either the reds or yellows to help them better master the skills or give them additional problems to work on while you help the other groups. Teachers should provide each group appropriate scaffolding using a variety of approaches until all students feel they are ready to move on.
Formative assessments in math help to ensure all students meet the goals of each unit and better prepare them to succeed all year long.